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AR and VR approaches in professional development.

Digitization in mechanical and plant engineering is changing value creation processes, new business models are emerging and, as a result, new perspectives for employees. The approaches to digitization are diverse: Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are already being used in training and continuing education.

In order to present an overview of the digital possibilities in this area to the NRW mechanical and plant engineering sector, ProduktionNRW, together with the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland, organized an application-based classroom event on August 23, 2022. The event focused on a theoretical classification, a lab tour and a subsequent workshop.Approaches of AR and VR in professional development

Approaches of AR and VR in professional development

Yannick Klein, research associate at the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland, first classified VR and AR. Virtual reality creates a digital environment that replaces the real environment of the person using it. AR, in comparison to VR, extends the real environment with digital content. Application areas for both technologies range from learning and training to product design and development to medicine. The advantages in the field of learning are that “learning by doing” imparts knowledge in a particularly sustainable manner, playful elements are fun as well as increase motivation during learning, and the creative possibilities are almost infinite.

The creation of training simulations in virtual reality is particularly useful when the frequent repetition of a task involves a greater risk for both man and machine and both the visualization possibilities and the interactivity of the task are given.

In the subsequent LabTour, Jan-Niklas Oberlies, lab engineer at the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland, presented three application examples for AR and VR in vocational training.

  • Via an AR application for mobile devices, a virtual differential gear (for tractors) with all mechanical functions could be presented in the room. With the help of VR glasses, two training games on welding safety and extinguishing a fire in the workshop were also presented.
  • In welding safety training, the task is to perform the preparatory steps of welding in the correct sequence and finally to draw a weld. If a mistake was made, the training game was aborted.
  • In the factory firing application, an omnidirectional treadmill was added to the VR goggles, creating a more immersive experience.
Interactive workshop session: game-based learning through VR and AR

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Dr. Nina Schiffeler and Anja Koonen, digital experts at the Mittelstand-Digital Zentrum Rheinland, then led an interactive workshop to develop their own scenarios from what they had seen or to reflect on the benefits of the applications and scenarios shown for their own company and thus develop starting points for integration. As a task, the participants should first reflect on how the onboarding process normally proceeds in their own company and where negative as well as positive experiences arise.

In the further course of the workshop, they were then to identify whether applications of AR or VR could possibly be used to successfully counter these different experiences. One of the statements made by the participants in this regard was that digital solutions can offer a way to better prepare new employees for future tasks and additionally prepare them for the corporate culture.

Finally, the question was asked as to what benefits the participants derived from the event. It became clear that those present were open to the topic in principle. On the one hand, it was intensively discussed that AR and VR applications reduce complexity and thus cannot represent reality. In addition, there are high acquisition costs for the individual solution approaches. On the other hand, it was emphasized that precisely this focus on a central aspect can be advantageous. In addition, offering digital solutions can be a unique selling point in mechanical and plant engineering.Further information

Further information

This event was organized by ProduktionNRW in cooperation with the Mittelstand-Digital-Zentrum Rheinland. ProduktionNRW is the competence network of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is carried out by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform for networking, informing and marketing companies, institutions and networks among themselves and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).